Procurement Professionals: Is it OK to Cry at Work?

What was once completely unheard of may now be looked upon with greater sympathy. But could showing your emotions count against you?

Did you hear that there’s likely going to be another pandemic next year? Don’t worry, we’re only joking!

But if there was, how would you feel? Would it be enough to make you cry at work? Would it be okay if you did? 

Whether it’s a toxic boss, a passive-aggressive colleague, or a feeling of burn out that’s getting you down, sometimes we all get overwhelmed and the tears can spill out, even if we don’t mean them to. 

For years, conventional wisdom has suggested that emotions should be kept strictly separate from our professional life. However, workplaces are changing, and discussions around emotional authenticity and mental health are gaining prominence. 

So, as a procurement professional, is it okay to cry at work?

The Case for Crying at Work

Dr. Susan David, a renowned psychologist and author of “Emotional Agility,” emphasises the importance of recognising and embracing our emotions in all facets of life, including work. 

According to Dr. David, 

“Crying at work is not a sign of weakness, but rather an expression of our humanity.”

Typically, many people regard crying, especially at work, as a sign of vulnerability, or worse, incompetence. This stigmatisation has led many procurement professionals to suppress their emotions, in favour of appearing more ‘rational.’ 

Suppressing emotions isn’t the right thing to do, for yourself or for your organisation’s culture, says Dr. David. This is especially true if you’re a leader, as it can lead to an atmosphere of mistrust. Specifically, Dr David says: 

“Allowing space for authentic emotional expression fosters trust, empathy, and resilience among colleagues.”

The acceptance of all emotions is particularly important for traditionally marginalised groups, for example, women or people of colour. This is because these groups may face additional scrutiny and judgement for displaying emotions that are not considered ‘professional’. This then has the unintended effect of further entrenching stereotypes and barriers in the workplace.

Crying at Work – Creating Safe Environments

When it comes to crying at work, Dr. David is not the only person who thinks that crying is probably ok. Renowned leadership expert Brene Brown echoes Dr. David’s sentiments, saying that it’s critical to create psychologically safe environments where we, as procurement professionals, can be our true selves. 

On this, Brene says: 

 “Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and meaningful connections.”

While you might personally feel comfortable with being vulnerable at work and shedding a few years when needed, what happens if your organisation doesn’t support you? Dr. Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, says that organisations need to do their part in creating a culture where people can cry, but also one where you can navigate their emotions effectively. 

Specifically, he says: 

“Organisations need to cultivate a culture of emotional intelligence where employees feel empowered to navigate their emotions constructively … by providing resources such as emotional intelligence training and mental health support.” 

The Case Against Crying at Work

While there are a lot of experts who believe crying is okay, there’s also many that feel this behaviour can be problematic. One of these experts is Dr. Amy Cooper-Hakim, an organisational psychologist. She advises discretion when it comes to emotional outbursts, including crying. Dr. Cooper-Hakim says, 

“While it’s healthy to acknowledge and process emotions, excessive displays of emotion in professional settings can be disruptive and may undermine one’s credibility.”

Ultimately, the decision whether to cry or not can impact your personal brand, so it can be a tricky one.

In addition, and in procurement particularly, tears can be problematic. For example, take a situation where you are in a high-stakes negotiation with a supplier and it isn’t going your way. While you might feel like crying throughout, maintaining a certain level of composure and professionalism is, in fact, key to securing the best outcome and maintaining your reputation. 

Procurement, as a function, does typically lend itself to more reserved and professional conduct, especially in high-pressure situations. Some workplaces may be more tolerant (and in fact, welcoming) of emotions than others, so it’s important to gauge the mood of your team and your organisation when thinking through how you might react to certain situations. 

The Importance of Being Authentic

The question of whether or not it’s okay to cry at work is certainly not straightforward. While societal attitudes and workplace norms continue to evolve, the underlying principle remains the same: authentic emotional expression is an integral aspect of human experience that should be acknowledged and respected. 

And, as Dr. David so powerfully points out, 

“Our emotions are data, not directives. We have the power to choose how we respond to them, both personally and professionally.”

Would you cry at work? Have you ever consoled a colleague who has? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.